close-up of sophia peabodyWhat is Student Affairs

Student Affairs is a career field in which professionals will work at the college level, either at a 4-year or 2-year institution. Career options for student affair professionals include working in academic advising, student life and leadership, career services, test assessment, financial aid services, and other various offices. A professional has the opportunity to interact with students and aid them during their time throughout college. Student affairs professionals have the chance to create programs, implement systems, and hold events that are all meant to assist students and enhance their college experience.


What types of degree do need to have to work in Student Affairs?

Student affair professionals can have degrees in various backgrounds but in order to work in this field a masters degree is generally required. A Master in Higher Education in Student Affairs is the general degree, which many professionals will pursue. Other degrees that are applicable to the student affairs profession include Masters in school counseling, leadership development, and overall postsecondary education. The key aspect when looking for degree options is to see the student population that the masters program is intended to work with. Most student affairs professions, no matter the name of the program, will focus on postsecondary education.


What are assistantships?

Assistantships are a common part of any student affairs Master’s program. These assistantships will allow students to work in various offices as graduate assistants that allows them to practice becoming student affair professionals. These programs vary in their scope of responsibilities but the overreaching theme is the experience that each student will receive during their time in the assistantship.

Another benefit to these programs is that they allow students to gain tuition assistance. This could be either through it being a paid assistantship, having tuition remissions, and certain assistantships will provide living accommodations. When looking at each program, this information is available on the department website under their required for admission section or you can also contact the department for any additional information. When applying for assistantships, you will either apply for assistantships at the time when you submit your application to the department or following an offer of admission.


General admission requirements for most programs

  • Submission of the department application
  • Submission of transcripts
  • Letters of recommendations (range in quantity, 2-3 and requirement on who should write letter)
  • Statement of purpose (either a prompt will be provided or you will submit an essay highlighting or education goals, plans, and information about your academic history)
  • Resume
  • GRE (not always required)
  • Assistantships may request additional information
  • Interviews are required for most graduate programs


Looking for ways to get more information about student affairs?

NASPA or the National Association of Student Professional Administrators is dedicated to bringing together student affairs professionals from all institutions across the nation. NASPA provides various opportunities to members, which include conferences, webinars, and the ability to join various committees. Also within NASPA, there are knowledge communities which focus on underrepresented student populations, as well as different areas of student affairs, like student leadership.


Helpful links concerning student affairs


Programs available in California

  • University of Southern California


  • University of Pacific

MA in Educational Administration and Leaderships with a specialization in Student Affairs (